After months of speculation, the Big Ten reportedly has agreed on a new realignment strategy for its new-look 14-team conference: an East and West division split.
According to league sources via ESPN.com’s Brett McMurphy and Adam Rittenberg, the conference will move in that direction in 2014 when Maryland and Rutgers officially join the fold. The conference also will be pursuing a nine-game football schedule starting that year, pending a commissioner vote next week.
Thus, according to this latest sourced report, here is how the 2014-15 Big Ten would look:
East Division: Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers
West Division: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue, Wisconsin
Back in January, the conference announced that it would look to move away from the Legends and Leaders division monikers that they somewhat arbitrarily used beginning in 2010. Per conference commissioner Jim Delany of the previous decision-making and naming process, they “didn’t have great options.”
Now, the conference appears to be pursuing the more traditional route of a geographical split. Yet, it won’t be without controversy.
With arguably the two best football programs — OSU and UM — in one division, there could be a remarkably easier route to the championship game each year for the Nebraskas and Wisconsins of the world. The conference also has decided to make Indiana-Purdue the only cross-division protected rivalry for optimal long-term flexibility, according to this report.